July 8, 2017
Start time: 0945 local (0415GMT)
Who would want to be a limited-overs bowler? For so long, Sri Lanka had been the home of the lower-scoring ODI, but in the past week, two totals of more than 300 have been mowed down, which suggests the island’s tracks are also beginning to conform to a global trend. As with so many of the pitches during the recent Champions Trophy, two of the three pitches in this series have afforded virtually no seam movement, and no menacing turn.
While the bowlers have been defanged – Zimbabwe especially having failed to take more than five wickets in any of the three innings so far – Sri Lanka’s batsmen appear to be in a good rhythm. Chief among them is Upul Tharanga, who, batting in an unfamiliar no. 4 position, has scored 198 runs in the series without having been dismissed. The openers have been in strapping form, and virtually everyone else in the top six has contributed a score as well.
Zimbabwe must now win both remaining matches, if they are to avoid a series defeat, but a newly inspired Sri Lanka top order stands in their way. The key, for them, is the discipline in their spin bowling; on Thursday, the hosts’ openers were fed too many wayward deliveries in the middle overs, and found it too easy to work the ball around.
Both sides’ catching is under the microscope too. On batting-friendly surfaces, wicket-taking opportunities are at a premium, and bowlers need their team-mates to convert every chance that comes their way.
Sri Lanka WWLLW (completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
While Asela Gunaratne‘s batting has been required only once in the series, he has contributed nonetheless with the ball, breaking substantial stands in each match. His presence in the attack is vital. While Sri Lanka wean young spinners at the top level, Gunaratne has been sort of an insurance policy – a bowler to fall back on when the front-liners are having an off day. Where Lakshan Sandakan went for 73 runs on Thursday, for example, Gunaratne returned 2 for 53 from his 10 overs, and prevented Zimbabwe’s total from getting completely out of hand.
Graeme Cremer came into the series with some form from the Scotland tour, and also the Pro50 at home, but is yet to make a substantial contribution in this series. Partly this is down to indiscipline. On Thursday, there were five wides down the leg side in his first over, and errors of length in most of his overs after that. As Imran Tahir has repeatedly proved this year – this Sri Lanka top order does not enjoy accurate legspin. If Cremer can tighten up his bowling, he could find himself among the wickets. It might also help if he could win a toss on occasion – by his own count, he has lost nine on the trot so far.
Nuwan Pradeep, who had left the field with a thigh strain on Thursday, has been ruled out of the rest of the series. This means a spot may be open for either Nuwan Kulasekara, or 19-year-old quick Asitha Fernando, who have been drafted into the squad.* Lahiru Kumara is the other seamer in the squad. Sri Lanka may want to keep the top order and the spin attack intact.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 2 Danushka Gunathilaka, 3 Kusal Mendis, 4 Upul Tharanga, 5 Angelo Mathews (capt.), 6 Asela Gunaratne, 7 Wanidu Hasaranga, 8 Dushmantha Chameera, 9 Lakshan Sandakan, 10 Nuwan Kulasekara/Lahiru Kumara/Asitha Fernando, 11 Lasith Malinga
Ryan Burl had been unavailable for the third ODI after being briefly admitted to hospital, having unwittingly consumed food he was allergic to. Though he comes back into contention for this game, Zimbabwe may be tempted to stick with his replacement Tarisai Musakanda, who hit 48 from no. 3. Tendai Chatara had an indifferent outing in the last match, but as he remains Zimbabwe’s top wicket taker in the series, will likely retain his place. Carl Mumba may also get another run as the second seamer, having returned an economy rate of 5.68 in 6.2 overs.
Zimbabwe (possible): 1 Solomon Mire, 2 Hamilton Masakadza, 3 Tarisai Musakanda, 4 Craig Ervine, 5 Sean Williams, 6 Malcolm Waller, 6 Sikander Raza, 8 Peter Moor (wk), 9 Graeme Cremer (capt.), 10 Tendai Chatara, 11 Carl Mumba
Pitch and conditions
There is likely to be more of the crosswind that was seen on Thursday, though apparently there is also some chance of a thunderstorm in the afternoon. The pitch may not be quite as batting friendly, but is expected to have plenty of runs in it.
Stats and trivia
Thursday’s century was the fifth of Hamilton Masakadza’s ODI career. He now sits at fourth on Zimbabwe’s century-makers’ list, behind Brendon Taylor (8), Alistair Campbell (7) and Grant Flower (6).
Since his return to ODI cricket following a 19-month layoff, Lasith Malinga has taken five wickets at an average of 63.60, with an economy rate of 6.25
If Sri Lanka win either of their remaining games, this will be the first ODI trophy they have won since November last year, when they beat Zimbabwe and West Indies in a tri-series.
“There’s not much you can change in one day. We will take the positives and try and and restrict them.”
Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer on the quick turnaround
“What we need is consistency. We can lose one or two games, but if we bat well every day that’s great. Some days we don’t do well. If we want to improve we need to be consistent.”
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews wants his top-order men to be run machines
*13.57 GMT, July 7: The story has been updated to reflect the inclusion of Nuwan Kulasekara in Sri Lanka’s squad.